Whenever Canada takes it to the field it seems drama and tense theatre is assured. That Canada progressed from a group featuring a powerful Ghana, 2012 runners-up Korea DPR and traditional powerhouse Germany, is itself a testament to what Beverly Priestman’s charges have achieved thus far at Costa Rica 2014.
All three tight Group B encounters were a masterclass in resilience and mental toughness from Canada. The young Canucks were on the back foot for significant periods in each match, yet still succeeded in their immediate goal of knockout stage qualification.
Pivotal to Canada’s success thus far has been central midfielder and captain Jessie Fleming, whose metronomic displays in the centre of the park have been pivotal. Though modest in statue Fleming is partly moulded in the classic blue-collar work ethic that has long been associated with football in the north American nation.
Not that the Class of 2014 are one-dimensional by any means and Fleming, with her passing vision and ability to change the direction of play is, like many of her team-mates, highly proficient on the ball. It is an all-round game that has seen Fleming fast-tracked with a recent call-up to John Herdman’s senior national team last December at just 15-years-old.
Leading by example
Priestman, meanwhile, can’t speak highly enough of her young leader. “Jessie has unique vision and sees things on the pitch that no one else would at her age,” she told FIFA.com. “She has great fitness, is great on the ball, turns really well so I’m excited about her future.
“She is a different kind of leader. She leads by example on the pitch, and off the pitch the girls really trust her. She is not a boisterous leader, more of an actions speak louder than words type.”
Canada somehow found the fortitude to hang on against a powerful Ghana side, who had already downed Korea DPR and Germany, despite being reduced to ten players for nearly the entire second half. The result leaves Canada to face Venezuela in San Jose on Thursday with historic qualification to the last-four on the line.
“In the past two weeks we have played against some of the world’s best teams,” Fleming told FIFA.com after the storied victory against Ghana, her face still reddened by the afterglow of exertion and adrenaline. “We are definitely well prepared for what is ahead.”
And with both this year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ to be held in Canada, it is a unique time to be representing the North American nation.
Fleming though is reluctant to name any particular senior player as a particular guiding light. “They all had a pretty good effect on me,” says the Ontario native of her recent national team exposure. “I just put myself in their shoes and tried to see what they did right. Seeing the next step, and knowing how hard I have to work to get there, and what it takes was (inspirational).”
The immediate aim, however, is to help Canada achieve a slice of history over the coming fortnight in Costa Rica. “This tournament, with the thought of Canada getting out of the group of death, it is awesome. I strive for so much more. We just want to make Canada proud.”